The Changing Everglades

The New Yorker recently posted a slideshow of the Everglades, an engrossing and unusual glimpse of the place from circa 1890 to the present day. The photos are from the “Imaging Eden: Photographers Discover the Everglades” exhibit at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida (on view until July 12).

The piece picks up on the importance of Daniel Beard to the history of the park as we know it today. Beard had been a field biologist with the NPS since the 1930s and became the park’s first superintendent in 1947. (Fun fact: he was also one of the founders of the Boys Scouts of America.) By that time Beard had been already been in the Everglades for a decade, readying the park for public access.

Before it was a national park, some people saw the Everglades as a swamp which needed to be drained for farms and homes and cleared of hostile bugs, plants and animals while others saw it as an unparalleled oasis better left untouched. Beard was one of those who adamantly supported the Everglades as a “wilderness” park and set out to manage it with as little human impact as possible.

Beard was quite a character–dedicated, smart and personable. While he was watching over the Everglades in the 1940s and 1950s he rejected posting a “No Fishing” sign at Royal Palm. He understood as his fellow NPS ecologist Lowell Sumner had said, “Ever since wildlife management became a profession it has been said that a wildlife management biologist’s job consists primarily of managing not wildlife but people.” Still today, at the start of the Anhinga Trail, is a sign with the verbiage Beard chose to use instead: “Fishing Reserved for the Birds.”

Read more about Beard and the history and present of the Everglades in Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Learn more about the Everglades National Park.

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© Heather Hansen

Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior.